Saturday, November 1, 2008
I am waiting for Barack to finally admit that yes, even he realizes he’s horribly inadequate for the job—and that this whole thing was just a study being performed by someone who wanted to see how the nation would react to a complete hack candidate for President.
Because this can’t be real.
I am in awe at the number of people refusing to open their eyes to what a dangerous man this is.
Here’s the thing I find the funniest of all: The sheep-like mentality of the Obama followers. I was raised in a sheltered home, I’ll admit. When I went off to grad school, I found that those of us who were conservative were looked down upon and made to feel inferior because we were still “clinging” to the core values with which we were raised. Those in the learning community who had “broken free” and had taught themselves how to think for themselves naturally ended up on the other side of the fence.
Because it was impossible to actually be a bright mind, and still be a conservative. You can’t be enlightened. You can’t be a forward thinker. You can’t truly decide for yourself, and still end up holding to the same strong values with which you were raised.
Those who were still practicing conservatives were simpletons, naïve, couldn’t think for themselves, and were just spoon-fed.
So…imagine my surprise to see just how willfully and blindly all of those brilliant minds are bowing down at the feet of the most unqualified candidate in history. If there’s one quality that can be found common amongst Obama supporters, it is their refusal to actually think about the situation. Simply put, his name isn’t Bush, and that’s good enough for them.
And so the herd falls in line behind Obama. No matter how unelectable he proves himself to be. No matter how many scary and dangerous realities emerge about this guy. No matter how many scarring things he says about the American people. No matter how many radical ideas he spews. No matter how many times he flat out lies about his past… No matter how many times he flip flops and contradicts himself. He’s not Bush and that’s reason enough for these people to turn their country over to him.
Suddenly all these people who had supposedly taught themselves to think outside the box, are just closing their eyes and running mindlessly into the popular crowd.
And as McCain said of Obama in the second debate; that’s not only naïve, that’s downright dangerous.
And so the tables have turned.
A few years ago if you had told me that the most liberal member of the Senate…with just days in office under his belt, with an extremely shady background and no leadership experience would even have a prayer of getting elected here, I would say Lord help us all.
And that’s what I’m saying now. If you are a believer in fasting and prayer, and are not doing both in earnest at this time, that is irresponsible in my mind. At first I just didn’t like the guy because he was grossly liberal. But now when I consider the vulnerable state in which a guy with ideas like his might put our country, my dislike turns to genuine concern. This is historic stuff. Dangerous doesn’t even begin to do this guy justice.
You might hate George W. Bush (and most everyone does by now), but if there’s one thing that can be said for him to this day…our enemies know where he stands. The same could be said for John McCain. Barack? Now that’s a crapshoot. That’s a big guessing game. This is not the day and age for such a risk. Anything but.
I am not a good political mind. I've never claimed to be. But when someone else gives voice to what I wish I could say eloquently, I can recognize that. I am good at that. So I will be quoting several people here.
Derek and I were chatting online one night about how perplexed we both were that this guy even had a shot. Otherwise clear-thinking people…even well-intentioned Christian people—some people I look up to, just refusing to be rational about this man. This was his theory:
“… do you believe that Obama supporters have a 'faith' in Barack that far surpasses the normal support of candidates we've seen in our lifetimes? Here's my thought: there's several groups of people (particularly those in higher education, African-Americans, and guilt-ridden white people) who have anticipated a viable black candidate for a long time. There's also a group of people (particularly college students and younger Democrats who came of age under Bush) who want desperately to be a part of the generation who affects major change.
These forces have combined to turn the candidacy of Obama into a Messiah-like coronation that borders on cultish. And Obama is smart. He knows how to talk to them. There's a synergism to it all that bothers me.”
And I couldn’t agree more. There’s something at work here. Here’s a young politician who has risen to power quickly on the strength of a couple powerful speeches. He has incredible power over people. He claims to be a Christian but has very questionable character and practices. He’s a smooth talker. He says a lot of nothing. A lot of pie in the sky ideas. And people are falling all over themselves for him.
How many more scenes do you want to see of people downright weeping at his events? Thousands of Germans bowing down before him? A children’s choir singing songs of worship to him? A youth group’s creepy chantings about a better day with Barack? How many more of these chilling scenes do people need to see before they come to their senses? There’s something fishy going on here. He’s got a grip on people, and it’s anything but healthy.
At the Saddleback forum he stuttered, he stammered, he refused to answer questions directly because it cut against him politically.
And the fact that Obama survived the Reverend Wright fiasco says it all. The media made a MUCH bigger deal about Sarah Palin’s wardrobe than the maniac who fed Obama’s spiritual brain for 20 years. The fact that I live in a country that is willing to turn a blind eye to a guy who sat under that kind of “ministry” is enough to make me want to puke.
And as Derek emailed to me: “True or false: Friends of Barack Obama's late mother, who Obama claims shaped his political philosophy, say that she harbored Communist sympathies… True or false: Obama's father was a Muslim, his mother an atheist/agnostic, and his sister is married to a Buddhist.” (The answer to Derek’s “true or false” game is always true, by the way…)
Oh but there is one. I have found one person willing to think this through. One of the biggest democrats I met at Baylor recently wrote this on his facebook page: “(I fear) the coming defenseless, socialist, abortion-on-demand society.” Another day he wrote, “(I refuse) to be complicit as a taxpayer in a taxpayer funded abortion procedure, which would be the case if Obama wins and passes the Freedom of Choice Act.”
This guys gets it.
Another guy I knew at Baylor wrote: “I have never heard someone talk so well and much and never say anything at all.”
And you know what I fear on a personal level? The return of this stinkin’ “Fairness” Doctrine. As someone who makes my living in radio, the Fairness Doctrine would flat out destroy my radio station. There’s a reason why people like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Mark Levin are insanely popular. And there’s a reason why Al Franken was exposed for the hack he is and went off the air. Because conservative talk radio works. Obama and Pelosi could easily destroy the large amount of momentum that our radio station has right now with their attempt at “fairness.” Makes me sick This country could turn into something very very ugly. Something that doesn’t even resemble itself.
Oh my Obama complaints are many. I thought initially I would try to document all the reasons this guy is completely unelectable. But the list has grown so extensively in recent days that I’m just exhausted. But the sing-songy condescending tone of voice he uses...his absolute inability to speak off teleprompter... I heard someone say that Obama's a piece of art and not an actual presidential candidate. Well put.
Even if ONE of these (well-documented) character issues is even close to being accurate, that should be enough said. The fact that there are dozens and that they keep piling on, well... You tell me.
The truth is, the media hand-picked this guy. They picked him over Hillary and they got their wish. Now they’ve already decided he’s beaten McCain, and I’ve already seen that it’s crushing the spirits of some conservatives.
If these poll projections keep people from the voting booth, that is brutal. The media would have you to think it is a done deal. It is anything but. And I’m sure the exit polls will show an Obama landslide early Tuesday as well. Just like they did for John Kerry in 2004. Let not your heart be troubled. Vote. A thousand times I say, vote. The media has decided this race. The American people have not. Yet.
With all that said, I’ll leave you with this paragraph I found:
“Obama/Biden is a very dangerous choice for our country...he is a very attractive candidate and a lot of people have fallen for the hype...his stances are obviously VERY liberal which isn't the most awful thing in the world, but it when it comes to moral issues, he seems to be light years away from where I am...I could never vote for someone like that. He is a big government guy, which I have never been a fan of, and he is all about raising taxes, which is not the answer to most economical issues...including our current economic state. I hope people are educated enough to know the candidates for who they really are and not how good of a show they can put on. 75k people in a stadium is a pretty amazing thing for a politician...but it absolutely does not mean that he is the right person to lead our country during some of its toughest times. At the end of the day, God knows and His plan will come to pass...I am not one to over-spiritualize anything, but we need God's will for this election...now more than ever.”
Oh...and because I couldn't have said it any better myself, please see this email exchange between two of my friends from undergrad:
"Am I the only one befuddled by what I'm seeing around me? Has there ever been a groundswell of stupidity in the history of our country that could even come close to rivaling this one? I have grown weary of the sentiments expressed (in an Obama video), but I am perhaps more exasperated by the otherwise sane people I know that each day add to those already lined up with palm branches ready. Colin Powell? Christian leaders, including Anderson University's current Spiritual Emphasis Week speaker? Some of my very good, and otherwise analytically sound friends?
The hope and joy in these peoples' eyes are the marks of those who believe themselves to be, in some way, on the cusp of redemption. I believe there is no more fundamental common denominator in the human experience than the longing for redemption; it spans cultures and historical epochs. It drives people to do things both good and bad, and has been wielded as a weapon more than 'religion' or perhaps even 'fear'. Barack Obama, and any human for that matter, is completely incapable of providing the kind of significant redemption each of us is searching for. To believe otherwise is not simply an abandonment of logic, but also the stubborn expression of infantile faith in something far more fanciful than the Creator of the universe being born in a manger to a virgin...
Are any of you feeling even a tenth of the frustration I am right now?"
And the reply...
"I agree with your assessment and frustration. To the best of my knowledge, America has never had a candidate with the ability to turn the minds of so many to such mush and who has such control over so many. If that is cult-like language, so be it. Here's what worries me if Obama gets elected. If he screws up, will it even be acknowledged? Are the viewpoints of people like us going to be marginalized by the voices we'll be hearing? Will a "fairness doctrine" be re-enacted since many liberal opinion voices can't fairly succeed in an arena that requires large numbers of viewers and/or listeners? One of the New Mexico senators brought it up just today. The reaction to Obama has turned NBC, CBS, ABC, and CNN into the closest thing I've ever seen to state TV in America. We thought the media was biased in the past. As it turns out, we hadn't seen anything. In my most worried moments, I wonder what happens if such a doctrine silences some dissenting voices, while the pro-left voices shape the conversation for a next political generation..."
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Count me out of the group of Cub fans who thought this season was going to be handed to them. Count me out of the group who thought that September would simply be a victory lap. Count me out of those who weren't greatly concerned about some aspects of this team--even when they were 35 games over. Count me out of the guys who got all excited when the Cubs had built up an eye-popping record at the end of a home game-heavy first couple of months.
Count me out of the group waiting for the other shoe to drop. The national media is talking of this antsy, paranoid Cub fan--apparently half-covering his eyes, afraid to look. Who is this guy? I just like to watch the games and root for them. Count me out of those who think a choke is waiting to happen. And count me out of those wondering how they'll let us down this year. I'm only in my 20s. I don't know a hundred years of suffering. I don't even know decades of suffering for that matter. I don't know Leon Durham. I don't know 1969. I know no goat. All I know is that Dad raised me to enjoy Cubs baseball. All I know is a franchise that hasn't won it all, but has been reasonably successful since I've been alive. A playoff appearance this season would mean three in the last six years. I know a lot of teams who would take that in a second. So no...I'm not apprehensive about what's around the corner. If they lose, they lose. But this is the '08 team. Its own roster. What does Steve Bartman have to do with Ryan Theriot? How does Geovany's Soto success or failure relate at all to Alex Gonzalez? It doesn't. This is this group. This season.
A Reds' TV announcer said the other that this run to the playoffs might not be the cakewalk that all Cub fans thought it would be. Is the guy insane? (Well...I know he is because earlier he had called the fans who had taken the time to travel to Cincinnati for the weekend "fairweather fans." I know this...if there's one fan base in the entire scope of sport that can NEVER be called fairweather, it would be Cub fans.) But anyway...any Cub fan I talked to who actually knew anything about baseball knew this thing might come down to the final week.
Anyone who actually glanced at this September schedule knew that--the Cubs had no choice but to get out to that outrageous start! September was FULL of games on the road against teams with winning records. So no, I didn't get ahead of myself when the Cubs went out and did what they absolutely had to do...win almost all of their home games early. I've been dreading the September series at Shea Stadium all year. I'm the guy who's said you better have at least a three game lead over Milwaukee heading to Miller park the final weekend of the season. Just to be safe.
But also...with the Cubs' recent slide and offensive woes...how is it a surprise? This is a team that has flirted with the best record all season long--without guys having good seasons. Carlos Zambrano has been hurt. Twice. Alfonso Soriano has been hurt. Twice. And his numbers are way down this year. Aramis Ramirez' production is not nearly what it should be. Derrek Lee is going for the world record in hitting into double plays and only has 19 HRs. Jim Edmonds is hitting in the .230s. Kosuke Fukudome is so bad he can't even stay in the lineup. Anybody who is just now starting to get concerned about the holes in this roster hasn't been paying much attention.
So...provided that the Cubs make it to the playoffs, I won't be surprised at anything. I do think they're better than in 2007, so hopefully they don't get swept again. When they got swept out of the playoffs 3-0 by Arizona last year everyone was beside themselves. How could they choke like that?!?!? Really? Choke? That was only an 85-win team last year! They had a lot of three game losings streaks during the course of the year. In fact, the Marlins (the 66-90 Marlins, by the way) swept them in the final week of the season--games the Cubs felt like they had to win!!! So why wouldn't the division-winning Diamondbacks be able to do the same?
Someone remarked to me the other day--discussing the Cubs good season so far. "I just hope they don't choke in the playoffs." I was like...well good teams beat good teams every year in the playoffs. Baseball is a weird game. The playoffs are always a crapshoot. Every year there are seven good teams that get sent packing from the postseason. Who's to say? It's baseball. Anyone can beat anyone. The Mariners even beat the Angels this year. It's baseball. Especially in a best of five.
You just want to get to the postseason. That's the tough part. Just get there. After that, you gotta hope the ball bounces your way a few times here and there. But once you reset those records at 0-0, nothing's guaranteed. I'll take my chances with Ryan Dempster and Geovany soto and Mark DeRosa and Carlos Marmol. But win or lose, this group has accomplished a ton of special things during the course of a grueling baseball season.
Monday, July 14, 2008
What about this...what if Josh Hamilton led off for the AL and the NL pitcher was Edinson Volquez? That would be fitting. Either way...I'm rooting for Josh Hamilton in the HR derby and expect big things from him. The avenues he's had recently to share his testimony have been amazing.
People wondered if the Rich Harden move was reactionary. Not a chance. Anyone who thinks that those few days (between the Sabathia move and the Cubs' trade) were enough to put together something that monumental doesn't know much about the way it works. The Cubs have coveted Harden for a long time now, and have been scouting him for weeks. It just all came together last Tuesday.
And me? I've been clamoring for a true number two starter for a long time. The day they signed Lilly...I said he wasn't a legitimate number two. He's a perfect three or four. Then the next signing was Jason Marquis and I realize they DID plan on using Lilly as the two behind Zambrano. Last year he went out and won 15 games and proved me wrong. And still...this year the way the rotation was constructed...I wanted a number two starter. I've said it since day one. The Cubs have done all this without the benefit of an imposing starting rotation. And now they have one. I didn't want to go toward the playoffs with the rotation as it was.
Harden has long been one of my favorite non-Cubs. But people say this is the second coming of the Mark Prior fiasco. Hey I welcome that!! To have a second chance at a Mark Prior-type talent is a dream. And he's that kind of pitcher. Every year I would follow his success because I knew he had a chance to be truly great. I would always put him on my fantasy team at the beginning of the season thinking "this" was the year he would put it all together. And he still hasn't. But to think that he's a Cub is still very exciting. And you absolutely have to make that trade. Harden's arm may fall off tomorrow. And I still make that trade. You have to. The Cubs may or may not win it all, but if you have any bullets remaining at the end, something's wrong.
And they STILL didn't have to give up anything. About a week and a half before the trade, I asked Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus (before he went on the air with us) if the Cubs had a chance at Harden. "Oh heavens no," he replied quickly. "Billy's going to ask the world for him." So in my mind when I did hear the Cubs were pursuing him, I thought the Cubs would have to package Felix Pie, Rich Hill, Donnie Veal, and Ronny Cedeno to even get Billy talking! When in reality, the Cubs kept ALL their top prospects!!! Even Tyler Colvin, Jeff Samardzija, AND Josh Vitters. Unbelievable.
Eric Patterson? A guy with decent speed and no position. He wasn't going to contribute for a long long time. Sean Gallagher? He probably could've been a good one but he wasn't going to be a difference maker this year. Josh Donaldson? Draft a couple more good hitting catchers next year. And Matt Murton? A one-tool player. And the fact that "Billy" threw in Chad Gaudin is almost too much to take at this point.
What do I want from here? A left handed power hitter? Another front line starter? No. I want two things. I want one more setup guy. And I want a proven playoff role player. I know the Cub bullpen has been good, but if you can go out and get a Brian Fuentes or Scott Downs, you have to. That bullpen needs to be a little deeper I think. A month ago the Cub bullpen was the strength of the team. Now? Marmol is lost out there. Howry still hasn't got it right. Wuertz just got sent down. Cotts hasn't been consistent yet this year. Hart's been up and down between Iowa and Chicago. Scott Eyre is on the DL, and Wood is always one pitch from being there. Jose Ascanio isn't the answer, and John Lieber wasn't brought here for short relief. Chad Gaudin will help. But get me another guaranteed eighth inning guy who can also close in an emergeny before you start talking playoffs.
And the proven role player? I don't think the Cubs need to make a big splash for a center fielder or some such. If they do add another hitter, find someone who has done if before in October. Why? Because Soriano and Ramirez went oh for everything last October. This year feels different, sure. But if you're going to add anything on offense, find someone who is consistent but not flashy. Who has been to the postseason and performed well. Because if the big hitters start to gag on it again this Fall, I want to know there's someone else there to pick them up.
This is as vested as I've ever been in the result of the All Star game. I still haven't decided how I feel about the event deciding home field advantage in the World Series, but since it is that way...it's high time for the NL to end the drought. As I've said many times, I've never been a "this is our year" kind of Cub fan. But then again they've never had the best record in the majors at the All Star break in my life. So while I'm not convinced that this is our year, I sure wouldn't mind the National League winning the All-Star game in case the Cubs do get to the World Series. As differently as they play at Wrigley, I sure would feel a lot better--if they get that far--about starting the Fall Classic there.
And so that's why I don't want Kosuke Fukudome playing in my All Star game. That's everything that's wrong with the All Star voting. A bunch of simpletons voting for a .280 hitter with 7 HRs and 30 RBIs. And yet...in a potentially very important starting lineup...there he is. No thanks. He's not an All Star. Neither is Marmol. Six weeks ago he was. Six weeks ago he was by far the most important player on the Cubs team. Now? I don't want him even sniffing that mound at Yankee Stadium Tuesday night.
Anyway, here's to a 9-5 National League win.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Rose or Beasley?
As you might imagine, I’ve been asked that a couple (dozen) times the last month or so. And at the risk of sounding entirely clichéd, it’s a good problem to have. I’ll admit I only half paid attention to the NBA draft lottery. But that didn’t stop be from still picturing Michael Beasley in a Bull uniform even before they won the thing.
During the actual college basketball regular season, Michael Beasley stood above them all. Dick Vitale proudly and loudly proclaimed him the best player in college basketball hands down—no small feat considering Beasley forced Dickie V to glance outside the ACC for a brief moment.
And I loved watching him play. I found him to be must-see television. I would try to make it a point to tune in every time I saw that K-State was going to be on. The guy went off for 44 points against Baylor in the
They told me he was 6’10. I couldn’t believe how smooth he was. Even when the ball was knocked away from him, his ability to keep his composure was uncanny. He would collect the ball, and somehow get up a respectable shot amidst the chaos. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a college player with the ability to get a ball up on the rim with a good chance to go in with the kind of ease with which Beasley did regularly. Then he would step out and drain a three the next possession.
His length was evident. He was a superb rebounder. His numbers screamed prototypical power forward. But his play goes beyond that. He can be at the top of the paint, suddenly lean in, and seemingly have a gimme short-shot. And he could handle the ball.
All the mock drafts had Beasley at the top. The Miami Heat would take him once they won the lottery. And I was sold. He was the next great big man in the NBA. A pure scorer and a dominant rebounder.
Now he’s measuring out at 6’7. What? He’s not a thundering 6’10 inside presence? You mean he’s two inches shorter than the Bulls’ small forward (Luol Deng)?
For how long have we been saying that the Bulls just need that one legitimate inside scoring presence? It’s been the missing piece every since John Paxson assembled this group! They’ve got all the other parts. Including a big crop of above-average perimeter players.
You don’t need Derrick Rose! You can find a great guard rotation out of what you have. Seriously. The last thing the Bulls need is another guard. What’s wrong with Kirk Hinrich, Chris Duhon, Thabo Sefalosha, Larry Hughes, Ben Gordon, JamesOn Curry and company? You’re going to throw another guard into that mix when you’ve needed a big man so desperately? And now that big man has fallen right into your lap in the form of a lucky ping pong ball.
Beasley is the perfect answer to many a Bulls fan’s prayers for the better part of a decade. Like I said, he’s must-see TV. He’s a star in the making. He looks like a star. He talks like one. He walks like one. Seriously…watch him walk up and down the court. He’s a star. He’s got great swagger.
And is the fact that Derrick Rose is a
I’ve heard that Derrick Rose is “Jason Kidd with a jump shot.” What’s Jason Kidd ever won? I’ve heard that Derrick Rose is the next Chris Paul. The next Deron Williams. I like both those guys fine enough, but what championships do they have?
Then again…they say Michael Beasley projects as a Carmelo Anthony type in the NBA. When put in those terms, he becomes slightly less impressive. Carmelo won at
So back to Rose…they say you need one of “that kind” of dynamic point guard to win in today’s NBA. That’s funny…can you name the point guards on the two teams in the NBA finals?? They were distant role players at best. Especially the one on the winning team.
And then there’s Kirk Hinrich. Kirk is my second favorite Bull in history (next to Hersey Hawkins out of Bradley). I’m a huge fan. I have a Kirk Hinrich bobblehead. I have a Kirk Hinrich j-shirt. I think he’s a terrific representative of Bulls’ basketball and an overachieving player.
That said, he had a perfectly horrific season last year. He had a huge game against the Pacers one night. Other than that he did next to nothing right.
But two years ago he was fantastic. I still think he’s a special player. He’s the captain, and I think if the Bulls do return to glory, Hinrich needs to be a big part of that. I shudder to think of Hinrich in another uniform.
So yeah, that does factor in to my opinion. Drafting Rose removes Kirk from the quarterback position, and I don’t like that at all. Not even a little.
I guess you could move Kirk over to shooting guard. He’s always been kind of a combo guard anyway. And when he gets his confidence, he can be a reliable shooter. He’s a scrappy defender as well. Then you could bring Larry Hughes and Thabo off the bench and cancel Ben Gordon from your plans.
That would work. They say Rose is a good finisher. That’s something the Bulls need from the guard position. When I saw
So maybe he could bring some purpose to the offense.
Because the Bulls’ roster was so impressive on paper that everyone picked them to win the East last year. And yes, it is an imposing roster on paper. But it translated into a miserable season. So maybe a true point guard with good size who can bring some direction to the offense is exactly what was missing all along.
Still…how in the world do you pass up Michael Beasley?
Beasley will have an immediate offensive impact and likely win rookie of the year. But Rose? Combine him with an already-established roster and you could be on the threshold of some major winnings.
Seems like Pax has made up his mind. And I don’t think its Mr. Beasley. Rose seems like the wise choice. Beasley seems like the very un-Bull-like home run.
So please Pax, do the mature thing and draft Derrick Rose. And if you screw up and draft Michael Beasley, I’ll be the first to jump for joy.
Friday, June 20, 2008
Here are the most deserving major leaguers for the first half of 2008. Eight position players along with 10 pitchers. Starting pitchers bolded.
C Brian McCann
1B Lance Berkman
2B Chase Utley
SS Hanley Ramirez
3B Chipper Jones
OF Ryan Ludwick
OF Nate McClouth
OF Ryan Braun
C Joe Mauer
1B Justin Morneau
2B Ian Kinsler
SS Carlos Guillen
3B Alex Rodriguez
OF Grady Sizemore
OF Josh Hamilton
OF Carlos Quentin
Monday, May 12, 2008
1). Diamondbacks (23-15) - We think we knew they would be good. We didn't know they could run away in that deep division.
2). Marlins (23-14) - Dan Uggla is on pace to hit 48 HRs.
3). A's (23-16) - As much as we wanted to pick them to win that division, we're glad we didn't because surely this can't last.
4). Cardinals (23-16) - It's official. Dave Duncan is a magician.
5). Cubs (22-15) - Cubs streak immediately after Marty Brennaman spewed his wisdom across the airwaves? 7-1.
6). Red Sox (24-16) - Just 2-9 in domes this year. That doesn't bode well in that division.
7). Rays (21-16) - Bet you didn't know that Troy Percival had a 1.93 ERA with 9 saves.
8). Braves (19-18) - Chipper Jones: .406 / 10 HRs / 30 RBIs / 1.146 OPS. Staggering.
9). Angels (22-17) - Probably didn't think they would have this kind of battle on their hands with Oakland.
10). Twins (19-17) - Power outage. Joe Mauer = 0 HRs.
11). Phillies (21-18) - Here's something we didn't expect. Brad Lidge - 0 ERs in 17 IP.
12). White Sox (18-19) - Carlos Quentin is shining in a year of drastic underachieving by AL position players so far...
13). Dodgers (19-18) - Sliding a bit after just having won 10 of 11.
14). Orioles (19-19) - Nick Markakis leads them in batting average at a whopping .267.
15). Indians (19-18) - Travis Hafner's only 30, but on an apparent decline (3 HRs, .210).
16). Mets (19-16) - Johan Santana is on pace to walk 55 for first time in his career.
17). Rangers (18-21) - Quietly just won 9 of 11. No one noticed.
18). Yankees (19-19) - The Farns has practically matched Joba pitch for pitch so far.
19). Astros (21-17) - Roy Oswalt's previous worst ERA? 3.49 (2004). So far in '08? 5.33.
20). Royals (16-21) - Zach Greinke - 4-1 with a 1.80 ERA.
21). Brewers (18-19) - Check out these ERAs: Dave Bush - 6.98. Eric Gagne - 6.89. Carlos Villanueva - 6.46. Manny Parra - 5.79.
22). Pirates (18-20) - We thought the rotation would be much better. Gorzelanny hasn't impressed at all.
23). Tigers (16-22) - What's worse than a 2-10 start? Winning 2 of 9 in most recent stretch.
24). Blue Jays (17-22) - Vernon Wells destroys hand. Bet they wish they had Reed Johnson now...
25). Giants (16-22) - Barry Zito's career batting average against? .236. This year? .329.
26). Nationals (15-23) - And to think they started 3-0 and had a giant lead in their fourth game.
27). Rockies (15-23) - What was that about last fall not being a flash in the pan? Glad we didn't buy in...
28). Mariners (15-24) - We could've sworn J.J. Putz was going to win the Cy Young.
29). Padres (14-24) - Horrible. Not even Mark Prior can save them now.
30). Reds (15-23) - Just downright shocking that the Dusty / Corey Patterson / Jerry Hairston / Paul Bako conglomeration isn't working out. Who could have ever known?
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Laurence Holmes (from 670 The Score) emailed me the other day with a three-step plan for fixing the Bears. While on the surface it may appear that it takes more than three steps to fix a 7-9 team, it's not really that far-fetched.
Coming off the 13-3/Super Bowl year in 2006, I knew things would get tougher for the Bears. When I first saw the 2007 schedule, I predicted 10-6--based solely on the toughness of the schedule itself. Add on top of that the unrecoverable losses of Mike Brown and Dusty Dvoracek for the season, as well as injuries to Tommie Harris, Nathan Vasher, Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman, Greg Olsen, Rex Grossman, Brian Griese, and many others...in actuality a 7-9 mark sounds about right. And that's what they ended up with.
But that aside, 7-9 really isn't that much different than 10-6. It's a dropped pass here and a first down there.
And just as the 2006 team probably wasn't as good as 13-3 would indicate. The 2007 season wasn't as bad as 7-9 showed. So in those terms, you're not that far away from a 10-6 2008 campaign. And that sounds pretty good right now. That might win the division in 2008.
"We don't have a quarterback, we don't have a running back!!!" Bears' fans couldn't wait to replace Rex Grossman and Cedric Benson this offseason. I have a better plan. Replace everything BUT your QB and your RB.
The offensive line was embarrasingly pourous. Fred Miller (class of Baylor '96) is my favorite player on the Bears. But I couldn't stand his play this year. Yuck. When he wasn't false starting, he was leaky. Get rid of him. The QB and the RB didn't have a chance this year with that kind of offensive line play. No time to throw and no room to run. I think the jury's still out on Rex and Cedric. Fix the line first. THEN see if you need to complain about your skill players.
And while you're at it, get some WRs who will fight for the ball and help out your QB. I love Muhsin Muhammed, but he's no longer fit to line up with a first team offense. And Bernard Berrian will make the highlight reel a half dozen times a year. But he won't fight for the catches you have to have to keep your offense on the field when it matters most. Fix the receivers and line. THEN complain about Rex and Cedric.
The three steps that Laurence mentioned were: 1). Sign Alan Faneca. 2). Draft one of the highly touted left tackles so you can move John Tait back where he belongs. 3). Sign Michael Turner.
I think Michael Turner kind of played himself out of the limelight after LT went down in the playoffs. (But I know what he meant...Turner's a Chicago kid ready for his own gig). But I do like the first two steps. Overhaul the O-line. With just two changes, you can affect the entire unit because moving Tait back to the right side is a big deal at this point in his career.
The Bears didn't sign Tait to play on the left side. He's done a respectable job over there, but drafting a left tackle would essentially cure both sides of the line. Then, if you're lucky enough to land Faneca on top of that, then you are talking dominance. Faneca would be a very un-Bear-like move, but it's fun about which to think.
And so very quickly--with just a couple tweaks--the offense begins to have a chance at success. Rex might be able to actually focus on what he needs to do. The running game might actually be able to set up the passing game from time to time. That was non-existent in 2007. And yes, improve the receivers. No, don't go get a number one (when was the last time the Bears had an actual number one WR anyway??? Not in my lifetime). But go get a veteran who can continue to mentor Devin Hester, and can help out his quarterback. Something tells me Marty Booker might be available this offseason. Sign him.
What's more...the tight end position can only continue to improve. I was listening to Mike and Mike late last summer, and they had on John Clayton. They asked him about what he was the most impressed from all the NFL training camps. His answer? The Bears offense. He said the early chemistry between Grossman and Greg Olsen was eye-popping. He expected huge things. So did I. A pass-catching TE would change everything.
Unfortunately, Olsen got hurt at the beginning of the season. And by the time he came back, Rex was in and out of the lineup. They never even got close to using Olsen correctly. But now...as a healthy sophomore...Olsen could transform that offense with his big play capability. I think people underestimated the impact of not having him at full strength last year.
And yes, I do want to focus almost primarily on the offense. I know the defense was particularly embarrasing at times (see the Minnesota game[s]) last year. But this is one time I think you can expect better things if players get healthy. No I won't count on Mike Brown this year. That's one I'll give up. But the Bears defensive unit wasn't healthy and together for one single game last year. I think just a little better luck on that side of the ball this year will cause that squad to return to near-2006 status.
Like I said, a play here and a play there and the Bears were a winning team last year. They needed ONE more first down against the Giants at home late in the year to beat the eventual Super Bowl champions. They were one (improbable) Ryan Longwell field goal away from forcing overtime at home with Minnesota. They were only blown out once. The Dallas Sunday night game. Every other game was extremely winnable. And that leads me to believe that they're closer than the Chicago media would like to believe... Here's to another genius draft from Jerry Angelo.
Monday, April 21, 2008
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
I've never been more at a loss as to what happened to a team in my life. The Bulls have been known as a good, young, hard-working, overachieving team over the past three years--building toward something special. Two offseasons ago they added Ben Wallace to their young and talented core. That was a nice piece. They went out and turned in a reasonably good regular season last year, but looked most impressive in sweeping the Heat in the first round of the playoffs, then chasing the Pistons to six games in the second round.
So...this past offseason. A little addition by subtraction by getting rid of P.J. Brown, Mike Sweetney, and Malik Allen, etc. Replace those names with big men Joe Smith, Joakim Noah, and Aaron Gray, and you get worlds better. Instantly.
Smith was a former number one overall pick, and brought experience and maturity to the team. Beyond that, by signing he promptly became the only legitimate offensive threat down low for the Bulls--something they lacked the previous year. So you filled that hole.
And as for Noah and Gray...I blogged last year about John Paxson's brilliant plan to build a team of winners and successful college basketball players (see Duhon, Hinrich, Gordon, Deng, Thomas, etc.) And he only added to that last offseason.
Joakim Noah was a guy I loved to watch play in college, and a dream get at number nine in the 2007 draft. After he won his first National Championship at Florida two years ago, he was instantly projected as the number one overall pick in the draft. He instead returned to school, and shared more of the load last year with Al Horford and company. So his stock fell a little. And the Bulls basically got a top-of-the-draft caliber guy at number nine. I remember after Florida's first championship, my basketball-fan-friend Matt wrote to me, "This Noah kid is something else. What an atypical athlete. His speed and ball handling skills at his size are amazing." So to be able to add a piece like that to the mix was to good to be true.
And then Aaron Gray. After Pitt's 2006 NCAA run, Gray was projected to be a lottery pick in that summer's draft. But like Noah, he elected to return for his junior season. He ended up having a bit of a down year, and fell all the way down to the Bulls in the second round! You talk about a dream draft. One guy who would have been the top pick and another who would have been a lottery selection. You can't fault Paxson's ability to draft, no matter what.
So here the Bulls were...young, still on the rise, playoff-tested at last, very very deep, and they had finally plugged some holes. They were ready. More than one preseason publication picked them to represent the East in the NBA finals. A Bulls/Suns finals seemed to be a popular prediction. And why not? There was absolutely no reason to believe the Bulls weren't poised to take that next step after the playoff success they tasted the year before.
But the problem was, the season began and the Bulls were bad. A bad basketball team. Very bad. Like...they probably turned in their worst season in franchise history. Oh there were years with fewer wins, but even the post-Jordan era was less embarrasing than this year's squad.
I remember in the lean years after Jordan...you knew the Bulls would be horrible. But I still hung in there. I still loved to listen to them every night and cherish every win. (Part of that was probably because John Paxson was doing the radio color. To this day he's the best color guy I've ever heard in any sport in any medium. I learned more about basketball in two or three years of listening to Pax do the Bulls games than any other source in my life. He was a natural. As good of a GM as he is, he was better at radio. And I hated to see him go.) But still, you could lock in and follow the team. And believe.
But this year? This year just tasted bad. Oh I still tried to listen to almost every game, and I caught them every time they were on TV. But there was nothing of which to grab ahold. I kind of went through the motions in my Bulls' fanship this year. I'm nothing if not loyal to my favorite teams, so I don't fear fairweatherness in this case. I actually can't quite put my finger on it. It was bad. Very very bad.
Even about a month ago...when the Bulls were part of the cluster of teams hovering around the eight seed--about 2 games out. It still looked like they were the most likely to get it. With the talent on the roster, you had to figure a five or six game winning streak was around the corner at any time. Even Greg from The Zone on 950 (no Bulls fan himself, to say the least) picked the Bulls to emerge and separate themselves from the mediocrity. But it flat out never got any better. Not even a little bit.
There were no offseason losses. Nobody got old. Nobody is past their prime. There were no key injuries (until later in the season with Gordon and Deng). Simply put, it boils down to this. The Bulls were good at basketball in 2006-07. Then they added some key pieces. Then the Bulls were bad at basketball in 2007-2008. It's as simple as that.
I almost equate it to the Colts or somebody for this upcoming year. They had a good year last year but lost in the playoffs. They're returning all their key pieces for 2008. What if they show up for this upcoming season and are just bad??? Not going to happen, but it's almost as inexplicable to that to me. (OK maybe an NFL team is a bad example because of the "parity" on which the NFL prides itself...and the playoff turnover in that league. And yeah, the Colts actually have won a championship recently...) But still...the Bulls were on the rise. All signs pointed to the best being yet to come.
People who blame John Paxson for this mess are absolute fools. Paxson did everything to make sure this roster was in sparkling condition for a run this year. His ONLY mistake was not coming down to actually coach the team after Scott Skiles was relieved of his duties on Christmas Eve. I still believe with all my heart that if Pax had taken over at that point, the Bulls would have been the five or six seed in the East.
Instead he inserted lame-duck interim coach Jim Boylan, and it spiraled from there.
I love Kirk Hinrich. But he was brutal this year. I was really hoping he could lead this franchise back to greatness. I wanted it to happen with this core. I love Deng and Duhon and Gordon, and Nocioni. But it didn't happen. The window has passed. It's over.
Please keep Hinrich. That's all I ask. Anything more than that would be greedy on my point at this point. But keep Kirk.
The Bulls have consistently been in the NBA lottery in the past few years. Partly because of picks they earned themselves, but more recently because of Paxson's GM wizardry in prying lottery picks from others.
So here we are...in the lottery again. And NBAdraft dot net has the Bulls taking Russell Westbrook. Really? Another guard? Let's see...you have Hinrich, Duhon, Gordon, Thabo Sefalosha, Larry Hughes, Shannon Brown, JamesOn Curry, and others. But then again, they're kind of deep at every position by this time. I guess I don't care what they do in the draft really. I just need it to get better. And fast.
But either way...for now I still trust Paxson, and will do so until I'm given a real reason why I shouldn't.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Preface: They had a brutal year last year and won 85 games. They certainly didn't get any worse on paper since last year. Perhaps the roster doesn't look better, but it is certainly more stable. In 2007 it took Lou Piniella two months to figure out what he had and what he wanted from this roster (and to untangle the Dusty leftovers). Once it was solidified, things got much better. I think that's worth a few wins right there. Piniella has an idea from the get-go this year. And the players have him figured out somewhat as well. The starting pitching isn't scary, but it's certainly deeper. With Lieber and Marshall waiting in the wings, we won't have to depend on a hail mary trade like the Steve Trachsel deal last year. What's more, Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano, and Carlos Zambrano all had a subpar (for their standards) year in 2007. I bet that doesn't happen again this season. That's worth something, right?
TOP FIVE KEYS FOR THE 08 CUBS
5. Michael Barrett is gone. I hate to even include this, because Barrett was one of my favorite players while he was a Cub. It wasn't until after he left that I realized how valuable he wasn't. After the fight with Zambrano, the end was near. He was dealt to San Diego after he played his final game as a Cub against the Rangers on June 20th. The Cubs promptly went on their longest winning streak of the year (seven games). They turned their entire season around. Want more? Barrett hit .226 with 0 HRs and 12 RBIs after leaving Chicago. The Padres (who were 41-29) immediately lost four of five (and eleven of 19). They missed the playoffs. I think Barrett's still a nice player and an above-average offensive catcher. But not having him and guys like Will Ohman around can only boost employee morale for 2008.
4. Kerry Wood is the closer. But not because Kerry Wood is the closer. It's because Carlos Marmol isn't. Not that Carlos Marmol isn't good enough to close, it's that he's too good to close. I'll explain. Putting Woody in the ninth gives you that imposing figure with filthy stuff. But it also frees up Marmol for your most important moments of the game. There's been an increasing sentiment in recent years--challenging the notion of using your closer solely in the ninth (or at the end of the game). Maybe he should be used to get the biggest outs, wherever they are. Marmol was the best reliever last year. With Wood reserved for the traditional closer role, Marmol can still be as valuable as always. And who knows, maybe that means bailing Woody out in the ninth a time or two...
3. The catcher position. I, for one am not getting caught up in the brilliant year Geovany Soto had at AAA last year. He was the MVP and hit 28 HRs. Then he came up to Chicago and hit .389 in 18 games with the big club. A repeat would be wonderful, but it would be ridiculous to expect that this year. Instead, I'm just glad to know who the catcher is going to be. Geovany Soto really doesn't have to be good. He just has to be there. Last year you were drawing names out of the hat. Koyie Hill? Rob Bowen? Henry Blanco? Jason Kendall? Gag. This is one position that needs stability. And now you have it. In fact, all Soto needs to do is bat .226 with 12 HRs and 66 RBIs to match the combined numbers of the rest of the Cub catching staff from 2008. Pretty sad. I'm not expecting huge offensive numbers. But I hope he stays back there all year long. And it's been said that Soto is the ultimate pitcher's reciever. The guys love to throw to him. He's a universe better defensively than Michael Barrett.
2. Fukudome. No I don't think Kosuke Fukudome will post very flashy offensive numbers this season either. He won't be the next Ichiro. Heck, he won't even be the next Matsui. It seems you can count on cutting these guys' power numbers in half when they come to the States. I'm not expecting anything more than .271, 14, and 68. He's 30, was hurt last year, and never put up astounding power numbers even in Japan (career high 34 HRs in 140 games). The high on-base is nice. The left-handed hitting thing is nice. And the fact that he can (probably) hit the cutoff man is nice. But the Cubs got seemingly nothing from Jacque Jones last year. Replacing him with the reportedly fundamental Fukudome has to be considered an upgrade, no matter how he hits. And one the Cubs absolutely needed. Being able to write him into right field day in and day out is a comforting proposal. Just don't expect him to go put up MVPish numbers.
1. Rich Hill. Go ahead and pencil in Zambrano for a winless April. He will make a late run at the Cy Young but end up with a middling ERA, right? Probably. Some say Zambrano will be much better without the distraction of ongoing contract discussions this year. But it says here he still struggles in April. Ted Lilly probably pitched a little over his head last year. But if Rich Hill can take the next step, it will take a ton of pressure off of numbers one and two. He's tall (6'5), a lefty, and has the biggest curve ball in the majors. He has the potential to be one of the best southpaws in the National League. When that is going to happen is the question. 2008 will only be his second full season in a major league uniform. I think he's the single most important piece to the puzzle this year. I'm ready for huge things from him. He's technically the number three starter, but will pitch fourth in the rotation. Imagine having a 14 to 16 game winner as your fourth starter. I think it can happen this year. If Rich Hill has a good season, the Cubs will make the playoffs.
(And while I'm at it, here's my dream lineup for the Cubs...[assuming they don't get Brian Roberts])
1. Derrek Lee (1B)
2. Kosuke Fukudome (RF)
3. Alfonso Soriano (LF)
4. Aramis Ramirez (3B)
5. Geovany Soto (C)
6. Mark DeRosa (2B)
7. Ryan Theriot (SS)
9. Felix Pie (CF)
I promise you that lineup would win 100 games.
Friday, March 28, 2008
Mets: Can't pick them first. I say Glavine beats them late in the year.
Phillies: Back half of the rotation needs to be huge.
Marlins: That rotation looks some kind of awful on paper.
Nationals: You'd like to think Austin Kearns would be good one of these years.
Cubs: Had a horrible year in '07 and won 85. Roster stability should increase that #.
Reds: Still not sold on Cordero, but the rest of division jmight be just that bad.
Brewers: Here's to another Ned Yost choke job down the stretch.
Astros: A middling team if I ever saw one.
Pirates: Snell-Duke-Maholm-Morris > Lohse-Looper-Wellelmeyer for the last place battle.
Cardinals: No Rolen, Edmonds, Eckstein, Taguchi, Wilson, Carpenter, Mulder...
Diamondbacks: Young lineup a year better and Haren makes the rotation unfair.
Dodgers: Will probably flip-flop with the Rockies all year long.
Rockies: Would likely win the NL Central or AL West.
Padres: Hard to put a team with this much pitching fourth.
Giants: Last place by default.
Manager of the Year: Bobby Cox
Cy Young Award: Carlos Zambrano
Rookie of the Year: Cameron Maybin
MVP: Mark Texiera
NLDS: Diamondbacks over Dodgers
NLDS: Cubs over Braves
NLCS: Cubs over Diamondbacks
Red Sox: Bartolo could play a role after all.
Yankees: We predict Posada's numbers: .256/11/52.
Blue Jays: It's been five years since Halladay won 20.
Rays: Here's hoping that Shields/Kazmir/Garza continue to improve.
Orioles: They're not even trying now.
Tigers: Granderson, Pudge, Cabrera, Polanco, Renteria, Ordonez...
White Sox: Decent lineup solidified by Swisher and Cabrebra.
Indians: Can JoBo do it again?
Royals: Put Alex Gordon on your fantasy team.
Twins: Meche-Bannister-Greinke > Livan-Boof-Baker fpr last place battle.
Mariners: JJ Putz rides the great season all the way to the Cy Young.
Angels: Bear in mind I made this pick before the Escobar injury.
A's: Would pick them second if I possibly could. Put Harden on your fantasy team.
Rangers: Kevin Millwood's still the ace. Padilla's still the #2 starter. Enough said.
Manager of the Year: John McLaren
Cy Young Award: J.J. Putz
Rookie of the Year: Clay Buchholz
MVP: Miguel Cabrera
ALDS: Red Sox over Mariners
ALDS: Tigers over Yankees
ALCS: Tigers over Red Sox
WORLD SERIES: Tigers over Cubs
Saturday, March 15, 2008
I have been a Cub fan since 1986. Here is a year-by-year list of my favorite Cub player, as well as my new choice for 2008 (given the departure of Mark Prior).
Note - Two players reappear on the list. This has to do with reacquisitions, and unretirings, etc.
(Pre-birth Ron Santo)
1986 - 1994 Ryne Sandberg
1995 Rick Wilkins
1996 -1997 Ryne Sandberg
1998 - 1999 Mark Grace
2000 - 2001 Kyle Farnsworth
2002 Mark Bellhorn
2003 Mark Prior
2004 - 2005 Greg Maddux
2006 - 2007 Mark Prior
2008 Rich Hill
Rich Hill. You have to love homegrown pitching. Especially a 6’5 lefty. Especially one who has the biggest curve ball in the majors. I think he’s going to be one to watch in 2008...
Saturday, January 12, 2008
January 1st. Downtown with Meg.
January 6th. Drive to Stillwater.
January 25th. China Spring Football banquet.
February 4th. Super Bowl.
March 2nd. Drove to Arch Madness
March 6th. Got a girlfriend.
March 11th. PA as Baylor Softball hosts 1 Arizona.
March 18th. Donald Miller at church.
April 5th. Flew to Albuquerque.
April 15th. Fuel City for Tacos.
April 20th. Swtichfoot at Baylor.
April 21st. Go to San Antonio.
May 30th. Move to Indiana.
June 3rd. Wrigley.
June 19th. Lifehouse released.
July 23rd. Waffle House with Dan and Derek.
August 24th. Counting Crows at Victory Field.
September 13th. Fly to Texas.
September 22nd. Doughman and I to Lenny's.
September 23rd. Welcome To Autumn Party.
October 11th. Random guy passing me on I-465 does the Sic 'em Bears.
November 30th. Drive to Nashville with Skinner.
December 8th. Bucy wins Birdy's Battle of the Bands.
December 9th. Christmas Cookies.
December 19th. Tailgate before Bradley Butler.
I know...I have a really exciting life.
Tuesday, January 01, 2008
2007 IN REVIEW
Time for my year-end lists... The entries are in no particular order within the categories.
TOP 5 BOOKS READ
One Surrendered Life - Bob Coy
Christmas Reflections - Jars of Clay
Cub Nation - Gene Wojciechowski
Wild At Heart - John Eldgredge
Magnifcent Me - Dan Haseltine
MOVIES IN THEATER
The Simpsons Movie
The Pursuit of Happyness
Balls of Fury
Don Pablos (5.6)
Fireside Pies (9.13)
The Salt Lick (4.21)
Jack's BBQ (11.30)
Cubs win NL Central
Bulls sweep Heat in the playoffs
Bears make the Super Bowl by blowing out the Saints in NFC Championship game
Bradley turns in second straight 22-win season
China Spring makes state championship game at Texas Stadium
SONGS OF THE YEAR
Broken - Lifehouse
Breath - Breaking Benjamin
New Day - Robbie Seay Band
Never Let Go - David Crowder Band
Hibernation Day - Jars of Clay
Who We Are - Lifehouse
Give Yourself Away - Robbie Seay Band
Christmas Songs - Jars Of Clay Five Score and Seven Years Ago - Relient K
Remedy - David Crowder Band
MOST LISTENED-TO CDs
Who We Are - Lifehouse
Turn Around - Jonny Lang
The Killers - Sam's Town
Oh Gravity - Switchfoot
Mute Math - Mute Math
MUST-HAVE PRODUCT DISCOVERY
Blistex Lip Protectant
2 Corinthians 3:18
Broken - Lifehouse
Amatuer Lovers - Switchfoot
Who We Are - Lifehouse
Vindicated - Dashboard Confessional
Mesmerized - Lifehouse
"If we believe that this life is our best shot at happiness, if this is as good as it gets, we will live desperate demanding and eventually despairing men and women. We will place on this world a burden it was never mean to bear." -- John Eldgredge (Sacred Romance).
MOST DREADED PHRASE OF THE YEAR
Matt Drudge retiring from Sunday night radio
Cubs swept in playoffs
Daniel Ruffin hurt
Julie Bowen gets written out of Boston Legal
Mark Prior signs with Padres
Perhaps more lists to be added... Perhaps not. My Year In Pictures coming soon.